There are numerous methods of storing a boat for the winter, all of them involving some amount of work and misery. A proper storage plan will result in a small amount of misery now rather than a huge amount next spring when you find the boat in ruins. If you don't have basic engine and maintenance skills, you should probably pay a boatyard to winterize the craft for you.
1. Begin with the engine, since this is the messiest and potentially most expensive item. Change the oil and filter. You don't want old, dirty oil sitting in the engine all winter.
2. Drain the engine's cooling system. If it's a closed system (like a car's), refill it with the manufacturer's recommended antifreeze and water solution. If it's an open system (one that draws water from outside the boat), flush it with clean water by inserting a garden hose into the intake opening. Drain the system completely by opening the coolant drain(s), located at the lowest point(s) of the system, usually near where a hose attaches to the engine block.
3. Drain the gas out of the tank (if your boat has a carburetor), using the drain screw at the bottom of the bowl. Replace the screw and fill the tank with a fuel stabilizer as directed.
4. Pump the holding tank for bathroom waste as dry as possible. Unless you can easily remove the tank from the boat, you should have a boatyard do this. Treat the tank with a deodorizing solution, available from a boatyard or from marine supply stores such as WestMarine.com. If it's permitted, you may empty the tank in open water if you are far enough out to sea.
5. Remove as much gear as possible from the boat. You don't want life jackets, sails, cushions or anything else left in areas that might collect moisture.
6. Open all hatches and storage lockers if you'll be keeping the boat in a garage. Close all hatches and lockers if you'll be storing the boat outdoors. It's a good idea to spray the bilge, head and lockers lightly with an antimildew product. Put in a dehumidifier if you're storing your boat outdoors.
7. Construct a tarp support system for outside storage. Don't expect your canvas boat cover to keep out heavy rain or snow. An inexpensive tarp, supported above the boat in a steep A-frame to shed snow and rain, works great. A long two-by-four running along the centerline of the boat and supported at each end makes a perfect tarp support.
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