When we replaced our rusty anchor chain, it was important to mark the depth on the new chain. Depth markers let you know how much chain you have out – critical in deciding how much scope you need to stay safely anchored.
We usually anchor with at least 5:1 sometimes as much as 10:1 scope with an average being about 7:1 scope. Don’t forget, scope is defined as the depth of the water PLUS the distance from the water to your anchor roller. On our boat, that means if we’re anchoring in 10 feet of water, our “scope” depth is 15 feet — and 7 times the scope depth of 15′ is 105 feet of chain out. The markers are the only way we can judge how much scope we have out.
When we started cruising, we painted our chain markers – a different color paint for every X number of feet. But the paint wore off quickly and then we had no idea how much scope we had out. Then we tried red fingernail polish with stripes for the number of feet – so 3 bars for 30 feet, marketing every 30 feet, 6 bars for 60 feet, 9 bars for 90 feet etc. It also wore off too quickly and the stripes had to be fairly wide or we didn’t see them as the chain freewheeled out. Friends use cloth ties, we’ve even heard of a chaincounter you can install on the windlass, but that’s far too high tech for us!
On our new chain, we used our old system using bright neon colored cable/electrical ties to mark every 30 feet of chain. You can get them at the marine stores, but we haven’t noticed any difference except the price from the ones at any hardware store, usually in the electrical section. We use different neon colors representing each 30 feet. We’re doing 4 computer ties for each segment, just to give us more of a chance to see them if the chain is freewheeling down. Keep in mind, the colors will fade with time — David usually just makes a note that neon orange is now brown or whatever, but you could replace the ties when they fade. We always have plenty on hand because they’re useful for so many things — including jerry-rigging our throttle connection when it failed last winter while cruising the Florida Keys. Here’s our coding, but usually every boat’s is different.
30 feet = neon orange
60 feet = brilliant blue
90 feet = lime green
120 feet = hot pink
150 feet = neon yellow
David puts the markers on the chain, using 4 for each color so hopefully while the chain is freewheeling, he’ll be able to see the different depths. Then he trims off the excess “tail”. We’ve done it both ways, leaving them on or cutting them off. The new markers David chose to cut off because the “tails” also wore off quickly, leaving extra pieces of plastic in the anchor locker.
So do you have a special way to mark your anchor chain depth? Please leave a comment and let us know! THANKS! Jan