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Deploying the appropriate length of anchor chain


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What is the issue?
When day anchoring in non tidal waters it is recommended a vessel deploys at least two to three times chain length to the depth of water, five times if tidal or windy, and eight to twelve times in stormy conditions or overnight stays. Although the water beneath the hull may easily be measured by the depth sounder there is no measuring device for the chain.

Why address this?
If you have no way of knowing how much chain there is deployed you have no idea of the security of your anchoring. If it cannot measured, it cannot be managed.

How to address this?
Mark the chain with a series of alternating length markings in different colours. Then you can count the lengths as you send the anchor overboard.

The key to making this successful is to mark the lengths in alternating colours. The first time I did this I used a single colour, white as it happens, and this was purely because I had a tin of white paint available. However this was practically useless in deep anchorages as the first chain lengths flew out of the chain locker so quickly I was not able to keep tabs on the initial length markers leaving me entirely unsure as to exactly what was deployed.

After this experience I carved up my 160 foot chain into the colours of the spectrum Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo and Violate. This took a lot more paint but I knew exactly where I was each time with the aid of the memorable ‘Richard of York gave battle in vain’ telling me the precise length I had deployed when I belayed against a colour. Finally this is not a precise science of centimetres so paint a good 30 cm or a foot of marker to make sure it is clearly visible and will last for some time.

There is a body of thought that says ‘the chain is doing you no good in the locker’ have it all out and use it. Most of the time this is true, however in tight and shallow anchorages this would be totally unworkable, particularly so when sharing it with a lot of vessels swinging to the wind. Also in anchorages where there are lots of junk on the bottom or reefs for a long chain to wrap around it is highly undesirable to throw a load of unnecessary chain overboard. In these circumstances and many others a measured chain strategy will pay dividends.


With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.

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