There all sorts of ways to mark an anchor chain so that you know how much rode you’ve let out when anchoring. Some people sew tufts of fabric webbing to the chain links at appropriate intervals. Some people attach colored wire ties to the links. Others trot down to West Marine and buy packs of those yellow plastic tags with numbers on them. There are even a few privileged souls who have machines installed on their boats that automatically measure chain for them as it goes overboard.
But most folks, I’m guessing, just paint their chain, dabbing on stripes of red pigment with a spray can every 25 feet or so.
So here’s a tip for all you chain-dabbers: next time you want to freshen up the paint on your rode, the first thing you should do is dive into the nearest dumpster and extract a few empty cardboard beer cases.
(Note: if there are no dumpsters full of empty beer cases in the vicinity, you are clearly in the wrong port. You should immediately cast off your lines and head to another.)
Next cut out some notches on either side of each box with a knife.
Then you can lay out the chain you want to paint in 25-foot bights (or whatever other interval you want to paint marks at) and can use the boxes to capture the ends of the bights. With the chain held aloft inside the boxes, it is easy now to spray-paint your marks. All excess paint is caught inside the box, and you can easily turn the chain so as to paint it on all sides.
For the best results, it’s a good idea to give each bit of chain you want to paint a quick scrub with a wire brush, then wipe it down with solvent.
When you’re done with the boxes, just chuck them back in the dumpster where you found them.
(Special thanks to Chas. “May I Cast Off Now?” Lassen for teaching us this nifty trick.)