SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Marking Anchor Chain

July 14, 2014

When the wind starts to howl and we are in an unknown anchorage with questionable holding, having adequate scope can make the difference between worrying (and possibly dragging) all night and getting a good night's sleep. Knowing we have enough anchor chain overboard to keep us safe is as important to our well-being as actually having enough. Since we have 300 feet of chain on our primary anchor (currently a 44 pound Bruce) and a manual windlass, it is nearly impossible to guess how much chain has followed the anchor overboard. I am a horrible estimator, and over the years Dave has tired of "I don't know" as an answer to the "How much did you let out?" question. Before we left to go cruising we had read about the following unique system for marking anchor rode. We adopted it and are so pleased that I would like to share it.


1 mark (30 feet) and 2 marks (60 feet) are easy to tell
apart, even in the dark, covered in mud.

I have seen orange plastic chain markers for sale, but in the rain and dark it would be almost impossible to see the numbers. Once they get covered in mud after sitting on the bottom for weeks they will be equally worthless even during the day. I have known several cruisers who spray paint marks on their chain. These too are difficult to find as they zoom past on their way out the hawse pipe and much like the plastic markers, they are invisible when covered in sand or mud. What we needed was something easily visible even in the dark when caked with leftovers from the bottom. We decided on 1/2" tubular polyester webbing sewn through the links of chain. They run freely through the windlass, and we can count them by feel if necessary. We chose polyester instead of nylon because it is stronger and more UV resistant.

Since we end-for-end our rode after a few years, we wanted a system for counting that could be used starting at either end. Every 30 feet (5 fathoms) we sewed a piece of webbing, choosing white for increased visibility. Thirty feet from either end is one piece of webbing, at 60 feet (10 fathoms) there are two, etc. until they meet at the middle. I am more likely to miscount five pieces than not know that I am nearing neither end, so we use one piece again at the middle rather than five. Therefore, from either end the rode is marked with 1-2-3-4-1-4-3-2-1 pieces of webbing. Though it may seem like a hassle to multiply by 30, we now have a sense of how much each mark is and rarely have to convert it to feet. We never use less than three marks (90 feet), and that would only be enough when tucked up in a small creek off the Chesapeake Bay for the afternoon. Shallow anchorages with a sandy bottom in the Caribbean we will occasionally hang from 4 marks (120 feet), but sleep better at the second 4 (180 feet). In deep water anchorages in the Caribbean, the second 2 (240 feet) is not uncommon, but only once in our first eight years have we used the final 1 (270 feet) and wished we had more.

After 4 years we switched the chain end-for-end then after 8 years we replaced the chain completely. When we inspected the old polyester webbing markers they were still as good as new. On the new chain we sewed new webbing marks the same way and hope to enjoy 8 more years of not having lay awake and wonder if we have let out adequate scope.

Fruit flies in the galley is a constant battle for those living in the tropics. Even if your infestation is only seasonal, the aggrevation factor is fairly high. MONDAY we'll share our nearly free, extraordinarily efficient fruit fly trap.

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