One obvious benefit of the professional route is that marina staff should be able to answer any of your questions and offer their experience as a guide. Although you won't be performing the winterizing yourself, there are several things you can do that will help.
Aside from early scheduling, be sure your boat is ready for the marina to do its work. For example, it should be free of personal items, clothing and accessories that can be removed. The refrigerator should be empty and all lockers, cabinets and drawers left open. Take linens home, and send sails out to be washed and inspected.
This is the time to discuss with marina personnel any issues or concerns you may have regarding your boat.
Most marinas provide a fall work list/winterization form of varying detail. Use a marina-provided planner as a guide, then discuss individual needs with the marina staff. Depending on staff size, you may be addressing these issues with the marina owner, service manager or a technician.
Marinas should generate service tickets for each vessel, and it is important that your concerns be noted on the ticket. Casual requests or assumptions can lead to disaster for all involved.
Some questions to consider:
Consider asking for a sea trial with a technician on board prior to haulout. This allows staff to evaluate the boat's operation and performance, identify potential problem areas, and schedule work to be done during the off season.
Sea trial service is offered by most marinas, but you'll need to make arrangements early. And try to be on board for the sea trial, if scheduling allows.
The marina needs to hear from you early in the fall if it is to do its job economically and as scheduled. Remember, fall decommissioning delays often lead to spring launching delays.
You should be able to provide a list of your boat's on-board equipment, such as engine type, manufacturer and size. The same goes for the generator, air conditioning units, hot water heater, bilge pumps, water pumps and any additional accessories that might require attention. The marina will be able to order the necessary filters and parts to properly service your boat in a timely manner. This information also should be included in your permanent file.