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The chains of a vessel are the iron linkages which secure the shrouds to the side of the hull. For each shroud there is a chain, consisting of several elongated links, the lowest of which is fixed to a chain-plate bolted to the hull. From here the chain extends upwards and outwards; it passes through a slot cut in the outer edge of the channel, and immediately above this its uppermost link is formed as a broad ring into which a deadeye is fitted.

The term chains was also applied to the whole structure of chains, channel and deadeyes. A man standing on one of the channels, perhaps for the purpose of heaving the log or the lead, would be said to be 'in the (fore, main or mizzen) chains' or simply 'in the chains'.

Other types of chain found remarkably little use on vessels of the canonic period, although chains began to replace ropes and cables not long after the end of the war. Chain slings were used to give extra support to the yards when the ship was in action, and the chain-pump was the standard means of controlling the level of water within the hull.

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