Replacing the Anchor Chain


We are still cruising right along – ticking projects off of the To Do list.  You may remember that ages ago we marked our existing anchor chain with plastic zip ties in 3 different colors.  I don’t know why – but we didn’t even think about them ever falling off and adding to the terrible mess of our oceans. (?!)

Thankfully, they were all still in tact when we decided it was time to replace our anchor chain.  But this go-round, we opted for a little less plastic and a little more color. (Guess who was in charge of this project!)

removing anchor chain

Removing old anchor chain

Painted Anchor Chain

Loading new, painted Anchor Chain

We had about 280ft of 43ht galvanized anchor chain.  So I ordered 300ft (about 91 meters) of the same stuff – minus all the rust.  We have a windlass, so it’s good to verify what chain works with your particular windlass.  43ht is it for us.

The whole process involved multiple steps, but none were really difficult.  Especially if you like Crossfit type workouts.

Steps we took to replace anchor chain:

Ordered 300′ of chain – which came in a giant cardboard barrel

⚓️I pulled chain out and measured it into 25′ lengths that zigzagged back and forth. This was not particularly precise.  You lose inches each time the chain folds back on itself.  But I don’t need to know to the inch how much chain I have out when we anchor.

⚓️I took old plastic bags (also terrible for the environment!) and put the ends of the chain in them.  I didn’t want to paint directly on the pavement – seeing as how the boat yard was kind enough to let me take up a section of the yard with my project.

⚓️I sprayed all the chain loops (I used Rustoleum) on one end bright blue (technically turquoise…) and the other end purple. It took multiple coats to get a good layer, and I just walked back and forth spraying them all.  But the result was an alternating color every 25′.

⚓️After it all dried I drug it all back into that lovely cardboard barrel.  I recommend gloves for this, as I ended with a few nasty metal splinters.

⚓️Thankfully, the delivery guy had delivered chain before, so he left the barrel on a pallet.  Mark borrowed the yard’s pallet jack and wheeled the load down the dock to Luna Sea.  At high tide, with a strong friend…

⚓️The next day, with the boat still at the dock, we used the windlass to drop the anchor and put it on the dock.  Mark then un-secured the anchor from the chain and we began running all the chain out of the anchor locker and onto the dock.  I then cleaned ALL THE RUST out of the anchor locker.  There was a lot.  That’s actually what made us finally replace the chain.  The chunks of rust were clogging up the windlass.

⚓️Next, we just ran the new chain into the anchor locker and used the windlass again to haul it onboard.  Mark reattached the anchor as we got close to pulling the end of the chain into the locker.

That’s it.  It was a good workout for both of us.  But not a difficult project by any means.

We plan to spend as much time as possible at anchor when we start cruising.  And as the anchor and chain are the only things holding us in place, it’s imperative that we keep them maintained.  We still need to upgrade our snubber/anchor bridle, so that will remain on The List for now.  Trusting your ground tackle equals a good night’s sleep!  And anyone who knows me knows not to mess with my sleep.

testing the old anchor chain

Testing the old anchor chain

Out of curiosity, Mark decided to test our old chain.  It was really pretty solid, and we would’ve likely gotten a couple more years out of it.  But as with most projects we are doing these days, it’s better to do them now (chain is expensive!) while we are still gainfully employed vs. post-disaster when we are jobless cruisers…

  • Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor


    That’s a great idea to spray paint your chain in a plastic bag. We ordered new chain last year – expensive, but well worth it.

    • Jennifer

      You are so right – it IS expensive. But basic safety is our primary concern, so it’s certainly worth it. Thanks for chiming in, Ellen.

  • Ken and Deb


    I bought a cheap stainless knife and kept it attached to the bulkhead in the chain locker for emergencies. You never know when you need to cut the line in a hurry. Also I kept 100ft of 1/4 in line and a buoy tied to the last foot of chain. If you have to cut it loose (from the boat) the light line and float will help you find it again. I also kept bolt cutters aboard. Once my anchor got fouled in really murky water on a old sunken shrimp boat. I can replace the anchor but not me! I used the bolt cutters to cut the chain at the water level, saving the rest of my chain. I kept a old anchor bought at a second hand marine store and a spare shackle on board. One thing that really worked well (a tip from a old long time cruiser) is I bought a 5lb Danforth anchor as a lunch hook again second hand. Wire brushed it and painted white. I used 25 ft of 1/4 inch chain and 1/2in line about 100ft. Kept it on the stern rail and deployed from the cockpit. I used it a lot and to my surprise it held my Westsail 32 in 25 knot winds just fine (sheltered cove, no big waves). For a short stay in settled weather it was much easier to use than the primary anchor. Ken

    • Jennifer

      I love the tip to tie the line/bouy to the end – in case we have to cut it loose! Thanks for all the tips – and great to hear from you, Ken.

  • Ken and Deb


    I forgot to add, we also used the lunch hook from midship. When the wind and waves aren’t working together. Meaning if the waves are from one direction and the wind is from another, making the boat lie sideways tot he waves and rolling you. Use the lunch hook from the side to hold the bow into the waves, Ken

    • Jennifer

      Sorry – just saw this! Not familiar with a Lunch Hook. Will have to Google that one!

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