Dockwalk - Pull in Your Chain Untitled Page

Pull in Your Chain

Jun 25th 09
By Ofer Shelter

As we were pulling up to the anchoring site, I looked at my anchor chain markings and realized it was time to paint the chain again. The task wasn't too daunting though because I also had zip ties on the chain marking lengths, in addition to the color-coded paint.

Here is a catchy way to remember the color-coding system that I learned from my fellow seamen:

I personally use:

Go – green

Rub – red

Your – yellow

Balls – blue

With – white

Grease – green

Every color change is on a 20-meter mark. I prefer this coding because it's very easy to remember – for me, for the rest of the crew and for any newcomers. I also use zip ties for every color change. After a season of nonstop anchoring, the paint fades but the ties still hold. Attach each zip tie at the point where the links touch, so the ties won’t interfere when using the windlass.

Andina Foster taught me another color-coding system that I find very interesting. It has a simple number sequence to remember: red is one, white is two and blue is three. The digit zero is represented by non-color on the chain. Markings are placed every 25 feet.

Each marking is a combination of two colors: a background six feet long and a band of color centered on the background that is two feet long. The long background color is the most significant digit. The short color band in the middle is the least significant digit. The most significant digit (background color) represents the number of hundreds of feet. The least significant digit (band color) represents the number of 25-foot segments that are out.

A blue band on a white background would represent the number 23: 200 feet plus 3 x 25 = 275 feet.

A blank (non-color) band in the middle of a red background would be the number 10: 100 feet plus 0 x 25 = 100 feet.

On a 50-foot sailboat I just helped deliver, instructions for the color coding were painted on the inner part of the anchor chain locker. If you do this, you can use any color-coding system for the chain in any sequence you want, without the need to memorize anything.

When you paint the anchor chain, first use sulfuric acid to remove any form of oxidation, rust or dirt. Make sure the surface is etched so the paint may bond better with the links. Paint applied to a galvanized surface will hold better.


At the end of the day, no matter how many coats we put on, the paint eventually will peel off. I mark my planner for painting the chain every six months or so, but it doesn’t always work out that way and I can find myself in the middle of a season with an unmarked chain. What saves me every time are the little colored zip ties.


How do you remember your anchor chain color code?


Rating  Average 0 out of 5

  • I use the the colour code instructions written under the anchor hatch so i can use any paint or marking combination, except i mark every ten metres, with a 5m , 10m and 15m so when we are picking up, the crew don't haul it through the hawser.. Just while we are on the anchor, if you pick up someone else's chain in a marina (Bonifacio is a prime example) please keep your vessel in the same position until you're untangled and don't drag it down ten other anchors.. so when you finally untangle and release it you havn't caused another ten tangle ups..
    Posted by Silversurfer 26/06/2009 19:21:17

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