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When a commercial vessel goes into a shipyard for a long-scheduled bout of maintenance, one of the chores that’s often addressed is the so-called ranging of said vessel’s anchor chain, a tedious, grimy process that is also pretty important. After all, losing an anchor—whether great or small— due to a bad detachable link or a worn-out swivel or shackle can be VERY expensive. Recreational boaters have smaller chains, windlasses, and other components to deal with, of course, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t range the chain on your own boat every few years. Why? For starters, powering your anchor (or anchors) down onto a dock, then flaking out the attendant chain alongside, and finally blowing dirt and debris away with a freshwater hose may uncover a multitude of sins. Some of the links in your chain—or indeed all of them—may show significant rust, thereby dictating either new chain or paying to have the old one re-galvanized. Moreover, whatever you are using to mark your chain (whether it be paint, rags, or cable ties signifying depth via either color or number) may be showing significant wear and need replacing. And, last but not least, there may be marine animals or plants adhering to your chain that are generating a stinky onboard aroma. Once you’ve ranged your chain, cleaned it, and allowed it to dry in the sun, you may want to lightly brush the rusty spots with a product like Ospho (www.ospho.com), an old-fashioned but tried-and-true metal treatment that converts iron oxide (rust) to iron phosphate, a hard, black, corrosion-resistant material. Be careful not to spill the stuff in the water or on yourself, by the way, since it contains phosphoric acid. Now, with the rust issue dealt with, go ahead and refurbish your marking system (new, neon-colored cable ties tend to be easier to see in the dark), check your bitter-end connection (we recommend using an appropriate length of nylon rode to secure your chain’s bitter end to the pad eye in your anchor locker—just in case you have to haul out a knife and cut your anchor loose in a hurry some dark, stormy night with an upwind vessel dragging down upon your position), and clean out your anchor locker with soap, water, a brush, and a stout heart.

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