After Labor Day you know the clock has been ticking. You monitor the long range forecast to get as much fall boating season in as possible. And we've been pretty lucky so far with temps in the 70s last weekend. We know as the cold weather is coming as Halloween approaches and that's one of the saddest times of the year for boaters. We have to put our boats away for winter.

The good news is that there are options depending on what you're budget is, from heated indoor storage, to your garage, or outdoor storage with or without shrink wrap.

Heated indoor is the most expensive option, but the easiest to prep with the least steps for winter. If you do that, you really only have to do steps 1-5 below.

Every other option, you'll need to go through all the steps.

Here's a checklist of what you'll need to do before ole man winter shows up in West Michigan.

#1 BATTERY - Take your batteries out of the boat and store somewhere warm and put them on a trickle charger all winter. Leaving your battery in the boat all winter will result in a dead battery next spring. And boat batteries are not cheap, so this step will save you money next year.

Keep your batteries charged all winter. A fully charged battery should read 0 amps on the charger.

#2 GAS - Hopefully your boat already has non-ethanol gas in it. Gas with ethanol will attract water and that's not good for storage. In any case you're going to want add stabilizers like STA-BIL and SEAFOAM gas treatments. No need to top off your tank and these additives will mix with any water that's gotten into your tank this season.

#3 FOG THE MOTOR:  Whether you're storing your boat inside or outside in the elements. You'll want to fog your motor. This puts some lubricant in the system that keeps things from rusting over the winter. Sta-Bil is one of the brands that offer fogging oil. And there's a few ways to do it. The first is by taking off your air filter and spraying the fogging oil into the air intake and that takes less than a minute. The second step that I highly recommend is taking out each spark plug and spraying the fogging oil into each cylinder - remember the spark plug wire order or your boat will be messed up come next spring.

#4 CHECK THE OIL - It's a good idea to top off the oil before winter. Easy check on newer four-stroke motors have a dipstick just like your car. And you may want to replace the oil in your lower unit, too.

#5 DRAIN ALL WATER - I don't have this problem on my 20-foot console, but a lot of you have bigger boats for Lake Michigan. So you have all kinds of water to get rid of before winter. Fresh water, raw water and even some with the onboard toilets. Don't forget the water in the bilge. People forget about this and may end up with black mold come spring time if your boat is shrink wrapped.

#6 GREASE IT UP - Take the time to grease fittings on your outboard motor, top off hydraulic fluid for steering and lubricate the throttle cables. This will make it a lot easier come spring.

Now that we have the hard stuff out of the way, you're almost ready for storage.

#7 ELECTRONICS, LIFEJACKETS, VALUABLES - If you have removable Garmin, Hummingbird or other brand of electronics take them out of the boat. Likewise for boat cushions, extra lifejackets and any thing of value. That way you know that's all safe for next year. Life jackets can get a little rip and moldy in storage.

Take valuables out of boat for winter.

#8 TIRES - Check the air pressure in your tires and get the air pressure right before winter. You won't any flat tires come spring.

#9 PROP - These are expensive. If you don't have a prop lock, take them off and have them inspected and prepped for next season. One less thing for thieves to steal.

Take your prop off for winter unless you have a prop lock

#10 STORAGE -  Dry indoor storage is best for your boat, no snow, no cold and no sun. But that is the most expensive option. You're going to want to cover your boat from the elements and maybe you're lucky enough to have your own boat cover. They sell posts that will keep the cover propped up so rain and snow don't collapse it. The other option that is very effective is shrink wrapping for winter and that's well worth it. West Marine even has kits for do-it-yourself shrink wrapping. A couple more tips - make sure your boat is on a little tilt in storage so any water can drain out the back, and don't store your outboard in upright position as water can accumulate and freeze and crack your lower unit. That's an expensive repair.

So sorry it's that time of year for us boaters, but I have good news at least for me - I'm lucky my boat is in Florida so the weather is great.

No winterizing for me, I'm lucky my boat is in Florida for the winter.


Do It Yourself Shrink Wrap Kits at West Marine.