Anchoring with chain is simple enough, the weight of the chain provides a wonderful catenary curve which will ensure a proper and horizontal pull on the anchor, when anchoring with sufficient scope. But how do you know how much chain you have let out?
The solution is simple, all you need to do is mark the chain at designated points, that way when you see the mark you will know how much chain you have let out!
Now comes the hard part, how do you mark the chain so that you can easily see it while not having it be in the way of the windlass gypsy? Some people sew tags onto the links, but these can get fouled on things if they are too long and they are easy to miss as the chain rushes out of the roller and into the water. Another option is to stick little rubber inserts into the links, but these are time consuming to install and tend to fall out of the chain with time and use. Another option is to paint a long section of the chain with spray paint, but this will wear off as the chain drags along the bottom.
As you can see, there is no right way, and any method you use will result in the need of maintenance to keep it operational for you.
I have gone the route of painting, as it is quick and easy to apply, and when it wears off, I simply spray it again. The paint I have sprayed on the bow anchor rode is currently three years old and still visible, but not as apparent as it was when new.
You will find that the paint closest to the anchor will wear the first, but the paint further away will stay in better shape. The 20 foot paint is pretty much gone, the 40 foot paint is barely there, but the 60 foot mark and on is still vividly visible.
If you choose to paint your chain, be sure to write down your color combination, otherwise you might forget the system if you don't anchor for a while.
The system we use is simple:
20 = Black
40 = Yellow
60 = Green
80 = Red
100 = White
So, 140 feet would be a White Bands and a Yellow Ban.
Since 200 would be two white bands, I simply add a short green stripe to indicate the 200 foot mark. This makes it easy to distinguish when we cross the 180 and into the 200 foot mark.