Owning a boat is all fun and games until winter arrives and you’re left scrambling to get your craft ready to ride out the snow and ice somewhere safe. Start prepping early and you can have your boat cleaned, checked, out of the water, and ready for next year with plenty of time to spare.

iStock_000006791318XSmallMarkel Marine shares some essential boat winterizing tips. Here are the basics:

Note needed repairs. Keep a critical eye on your craft as you take one last spin around the lake or bay; list anything that needs fixing or that you’d like modified. Running lights need replacing? Motor making a strange coughing noise? Awning covered in seagull droppings? Winter is your opportunity to set things right.

Clean the cabin. Take as much of the stuff out of your boat as possible, including fire extinguishers, which should be inspected over the winter. Wash linens, air out cushions, launder curtains, and scrub down the cabin. Rub the wood with lemon oil. Clean your bilge, but don’t pump any water with an oily sheen overboard. Finally, air out the cabin and lockers and set out some moisture absorbers like DampRid before you close up shop.

Swab the deck. Wash down the deck and clean all the mud and gunk off your anchor, chain, and scuppers. If you can fit, scrub out the lazzerette with a brush. Wash sails and lines with warm soapy water and make sure they’re fully dry before stowing them.

Renew the engine system. Fill your tanks to 7/8, allowing for expansion in the spring, then change the engine oil, replace filters, and check the coolant. Make sure all hoses, belts, clamps, and thru-hulls are in good repair, then leave the thru-hulls open. Clean the strainers.

Flush out the water systems. Run fresh water through the head and pump out the holding tank. Drain the fresh water tanks and water header. Then run non-toxic antifreeze through the head’s lines, valves, and hoses; and the plumbing system, ice makers, air conditioning pumps, sump pumps, fish wells, and bilge pumps.

Do a final check-up. Once the boat’s been hauled out, there is a whole raft of things to check, detailed on the Markel blog. Now’s also the time to wash down the hull and cover any holes (including exhaust) to keep burrowing animals out.

Now the question remains: Where to store the boat? BoatU.S. covers the various options, including leaving the boat in the water, which isn’t recommended. Other possibilities include keeping the boat on a trailer and finding a place for it indoors on a rack or supports. The key is making sure the hull is well supported and the boat is covered and tied down properly if it’s stored outside.

Situating your boat well can be more complicated than it at first seems. If you’re storing your boat inside, use a sufficient number of pads, rollers, and jack stands to support all parts of the hull. If your boat is on a trailer, make sure its weight is distributed evenly on not resting too squarely on the trailer’s tires.

With a little planning and some elbow grease, your boat will be sparkling and ready to roll when spring comes around again.

Where you do you store your boat for the winter months? Do you take all of these steps when putting it away at the end of the season?