How to Read Anchor Chain Leading - Reporting Direction & Stay

Dimitris Tsapis
May 11, 2021

Reporting the position of the anchor chain is an important task that needs to be performed regularly onboard. The task is mainly performed by the deck officer, who informs the captain of the ship upon request.

This article will help you understand how to read anchor chain leading by introducing the two most important points of observation. After reading this post you should be able to inform the crew member responsible how exactly the task should be performed. Let’s get started!

Short into to anchor chain leading

Once the vessel is anchored, an important responsibility of the deck officer is their ability to report the anchor chain leading. This refers to the direction and stay of the anchor, as seen from its chain.

By reporting the position and stay of the chain leading, the captain will know if the anchor is holding, and/or if additional action is needed from his side. 

It is also a great way to verify whether or not an anchor drop has attained the expected (desired) result. In other words, knowing how to read anchor chain reading helps you control and confirm the anchoring process.

But how can you reach anchor chain leading exactly? What are the things you need to pay attention to and how are these reported to the captain of the vessel? 

How to read anchor chain leading

There are two important factors you need to measure every time you need to report the position of the anchor. These are:

  • The direction of the anchor chain
  • The chain’s stay

We discuss both of these factors in more detail in the chapters below.

Anchor chain direction

When trying to determining the position of your chain leading, you will first need to determine its direction related to your yacht. The direction of the chain is measured in two different ways:

  • Clock format – The bow of the vessel (facing forward) is 12 o’clock, the extension of your arms is 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock accordingly, and the tail of the ship is 6 o’clock. 
  • Cardinal Points – You can also report using the points system. Similar to how the starboard is divided into 8 points, the port side can be divided in the same way too. To give an example: 2 points on the starboard bow or 4 points on the port bow. 

This article will be focusing on the more popular measurement of anchor chain direction, which is the clock format. The first thing you need to do when you’re about to report the chain leading is to head over to the deck and face the bow. The easiest way is to then just look at your watch and determine the numbers you’ll be reporting.

Remember that the measurement does not start with you at the center, but rather the windlass, from where the anchor is dropped. So, for example, 12oclock means that the chain leading is pointing forward, parallel to the direction of your ship. 

The following picture illustrates the 2-step process you can follow to determine the anchor chain’s direction.

how to read anchor chain leading

Note: if the vessel has more than one anchor, you will first have to mention which anchor is dropped, before reporting its position.

Anchor chain stay

Next, you’ll need to check the chain leading to determine a short, mid, or long stay. There is a fourth option known as “up and down” which is reported when the anchor has not yet reached the seabed and is thus directed straight down without any tilting. Let’s look at each option one by one.

Chain up and down

chain up and down


"Chain Up and Down" is a term that refers to the anchor chain being perpendicular to the side of the ship, or straight downward. In this case, the anchor is already submerged in the water but has not yet settled, which here means that it has not reached the ground.

When reading the length of an anchor and the chain is “up and down”, there is no need to report the direction as described in the previous chapter.

Short Stay

short stay

A short stay can be observed when the anchor is leading just a few degrees in any direction. This usually happens when the ratio between sea depth and anchor shackle release is low, which means that only a small amount of chain is released in the water. This puts a light strain on the anchor and is often witnessed in temporary anchoring.

Medium Stay 

medium stay

When it comes to a medium stay, the tilting on the anchor chain is a bit wider than the short stay. It is hard to give a precise range of degrees as this process is performed by the experienced eye of the crew instead. It’s worth noting that the strain of the chain is somewhat larger here and there are usually more shackles released in the water. 

Long Stay 

anchor chain leading long stay

Long stay is the final and most common option when anchoring a yacht overnight. The anchor is usually extended further out (longer) and usually represents a ratio of 5:1 to the depth of the water. In many cases, the captain will face the wind when anchoring the vessel in order to let the yacht float backward to achieve the desired result.

A deck officer, when asked to report the chain leading, would thus respond in the following manner:

how to read anchor leading


Tracking shackles 

Another important measurement that comes in handy when reading anchor chain leading is the shackles released in the water. These are usually painted with distinct color patterns on the chain so they are easy to identify.

We have previously written an extensive guide on how to measure and report anchor shackle length, so make sure you check it out after you finish reading this post.

Wrapping up

You should now know how to read anchor chain leading and be able to determine its position. The task is relatively simple to perform, but it’s always good to refresh your memory.

Let us wrap up this post by summarizing, in short, how to read anchor chain leading:

  • Check the chain and start by determining its direction in clock format.
  • Mention this first when reporting to the captain.
  • Next, determine the stay based on the strain and the anchor’s distance from the ship.
  • Mention this after you report the chain’s direction.


If you want to check out more educational posts related to the operation and maintenance of your (super)yacht, make sure you check out the PlanM8 blog.