Measuring Your Anchor Rode

Written by Captains Chris & Alyse Caldwell
Written by Chris & Alyse Caldwell

There are many methods of measuring and marking your anchor rode including commercially available tags. Since cruising and anchoring is a two person passion we prefer to PAINT our chain and rope. Generally there are two people involved in anchoring and anchor recovery so we prefer the larger easier-to-see markings from the flybridge or pilothouse. This way both crew members can monitor how much rode is overboard wherever they may be standing. AND! You won’t need a color chart to figure out what color just flew out of the anchor locker and dropped out of sight overboard.

Spray painting the chain or rope in two foot sections makes it easy to see. We prefer to use the KISS method: Red, White and Blue. Spray a two foot section every 25 feet making your mental math easy- Red = 25 feet, White = 50 feet, Blue = 75feet and then 100 feet = a century which is easy to remember with Gold or Yellow paint. So now anytime you see a 2 foot color painted on the rode you instantly know how much is overboard. If you go beyond the 100 foot length just double the color bands, Red-Red means 125 feet, White-White means 150 feet and so on.

You may ask how long does the paint last- don’t you have to re-apply the paint often when it wears off? Our answer is based on over thirty years of cruising. First we must admit that we tried the numbered tags and woven color strips through the line but the numbers were either too small to read or the color combination didn’t easily stick in our mind. When we came up with the Patriotic color scheme in easily added number sequences we hit the jackpot. Quick! What’s Blue? …75 feet. It’s that simple.

So really, how long does it last? Cruising full time and anchoring every night from Key West to New York City we found that our anchor rode paint lasts more than three years. For most boaters this is not a concern because an extra coat of paint can easily be applied during your anchor rode inspection process between seasons. The first time requires the most effort….but it really isn’t much effort at all.

We deploy all our anchor rode onto the dock to rinse it off with fresh water. Scrub the mud and funk off the lower portion of the rode that rarely gets used and rinse out the rope-chain locker to free the drain from debris. While doing this the rode is on the dock baking in the sun and ready to apply fresh paint at the locations already marked. If it’s your first time, just tape off a two foot section to be painted after measuring the 25 foot increments. A cardboard box from the grocery or liquor store works well to keep the overspray contained. Here’s a link to a few photos that show how easily you can do it yourself!

Captains Chris & Alyse Caldwell are USCG 100 ton Masters and Cruising Coaches who offer Personal Boat Training Online or Onboard your boat anywhere! The Caldwell’s help build your cruising confidence with hands-on training and with their training videos filled with tons of tips for the boater who loves learning.

If you have additional questions for Captains Chris or Alyse, please email them at