How to Paint Anchor Chain

To reduce confusion when pulling into your next picture-perfect anchorage, use a variety of colors to mark key lengths along your anchor rode.

| |1. At the appropriate intervals along your anchor rode, make a loop in the chain.| |

| |2. Gather the loop and place it in a plastic shopping bag.| |

| |3. Spray paint into the bag to avoid getting any on your deck, dock, or other shoreside surface.|


“How much chain have I put out?” yells the captain.

“I don’t know. I lost count. But it’s about 50 feet—I think!” shouts a crewmember.

Much screaming, yelling, winching of the chain, recounting, and guessing then ensues as the anchoring process unfolds.


A considerably easier way to anchor is to add a stripe of paint to your chain at intervals of 25 feet, much as commercial operators do. But what colors to use, and how to do it without making a mess?

An easy-to-recall mnemonic for remembering the order of your chain markings is “Rub Your Body With Oil,” which mimics the order of your paint colors: red, yellow, blue, white, orange. So by the time you’ve seen the white marker go through the windlass, you know that you have 100 feet of rode out.

Secure a piece of string or attach plastic wire ties at 5-foot intervals between the color stripes to give your measurements even more accuracy.


To apply your colors, you’ll need spray cans of each. I like epoxy anti-rust paint, but any spray paint will last for a while. You also need half a dozen plastic grocery bags, which you can use to prevent the paint from staining your deck or other work surface. If you work on board, use as much clear space as you have. If your boat is tied alongside a dock or jetty, stretch out the chain as much as space will allow.

To get started, remove your chain from its locker and make a pile. This is a good time to flake off old rust and perhaps swap your chain end for end so you get even wear at both tips and along the chain.

Next, measure off, say, 25 feet of chain; create a small loop of chain at this point and put it off to one side. Allow about a foot and a half of chain to either side of the mark. Repeat this along the length, so you end up with a row of small loops next to each other in a clear work area.


Put each loop into a shopping bag (better yet, use two bags, one inside the other, to prevent any leakage). Holding the bag halfway closed in one hand, liberally spray the appropriate color of paint into the bag. When done, use both hands and give the bag a shake. Then repeat the process; after three spray-and-shakes, most of the chain in the bag should be coated. Now move on to the next loop and the next color. Depending on the length of your rode, once you’ve run through your colors, start over and repeat the sequence.

Allow the chain plenty of time to dry before removing it from the bags. The dry paint may stick a bit when released, but some paint stuck to a plastic bag is much better than paint stuck to the deck, overspray coating cabin windows, or paint marking the pavers ashore.

Tony Little lives on the Gold Coast, in Queensland, Australia, where he sails his Seawind 1000.__

**Useful Tip:
**The benefit of using paint to mark a chain anchor rode is that it won’t affect the links as they pass around the windlass. If you prefer to stick with just one color of paint, an alternative is to mark the rode with stripes. At 25 feet use one stripe, at 50, two, at 75, three, and at 100, four. Repeat the sequence if your anchor chain is longer. Stripes work well on a rope rode, too, and can even be applied using an indelible marker. In a pinch, pieces of line or even cable ties can be used as markers.