Sail Peoria: A Private Sailboat Cruise on Peoria Lake

One of the things I love about travel writing is that we constantly experience new adventures. Sailing is one of those things we never did before—until our private sailboat cruise with Sail Peoria.

Sail Peoria sailboat sail

Sail Peoria is born

We met Brad Lathrop at the EastPort Marina in East Peoria, where we boarded his sailboat. Brad has been around boats his whole life, from a little fishing boat to fast ski boats. He has even built a hydroplane. But it was only about eight years ago that he experienced a sailboat for the first time. He was hooked and bought his own sailboat.

Brad Lathrop - Sail Peoria
Brad Lathrop

Brad was still working his corporate job then and would often come down to the dock after work. “And then I could just sail into the sunset.”

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After Brad accepted an early retirement offer, he had even more time for sailing. He likes to share his passions, and it wasn’t long before friends encouraged him to start a sailing business. If he was to do it, he didn’t want a business to own him; he wanted to own it.  So he offers a few private trips a week and also private lessons.

Setting sail

Once we pulled out of the slip and were on Peoria Lake, the wide section of the Illinois River between Peoria and East Peoria, Brad asked what we’d like to do. “Do your regular thing, what you would normally do on a trip,” I replied. But Brad customizes each trip. “Whatever the customer wants is what they get,” Brad told me. On some trips they sail the Illinois River up to Chillicothe, about 15 miles to the north. They walk to town, have lunch at a little mom-and-pop restaurant, and then come back. That trip takes about a half day. “Most people can’t sit that long, though,” Brad quipped. His most popular trip is a two-hour sunset cruise.

So Brad took us down the river, past the city skyline and to an area where we might see some wildlife. We did see wildlife—mostly seagulls, egrets and herons. Birds covered what is known as “Party Island,” named for the boaters who come out on the weekends, park their boats and party. Not surprising, birds stay away from the island on the weekends.

Peoria skyline from Peoria Lake

Wildlife on the Illinois River

Illinois River wildlife

In fact, on weekends the river gets busy—and loud—with recreational boaters and jet skis. So Brad encourages customers to sail on a weekday. We sailed on a September Wednesday afternoon, and the only other boat sharing the river was a passing barge.

Barge in the Illinois River

Weather not on our side

The temperature on the day we sailed was perfect, a little cool and with some cloud cover. Unfortunately, the day lacked wind, which of course, is a necessary sailing component. Brad had to use the motor almost the entire trip. Even so, it was relaxing. The motor was quiet enough that we could enjoy the peacefulness of the river.

However, Brad wanted us to experience the full sailing experience, with no motor noise at all. So he put up the sails when he thought we might have enough wind and cut the motor. “It’s all about the sound of the wind in the sails and the water lapping up against the boat…It’s totally quiet.”  And it was totally quiet and peaceful.

Sail Peoria sailboat

We were hardly moving, though, so Brad was forced to star the motor again as we headed back to dockside. He felt bad that we didn’t get the full effect of a sailboat because of the lack of wind. But even without wind, it was an awesome experience.

Wowed with a thank you gift

Before we left, Brad presented us with a gift—a couple of giant sailboat cookies that his wife baked, and a beautiful tealight candle holder shaped like a sailboat. Brad said they give a gift to all of their customers as a token of appreciation for their business. Now, that’s a way to wow your customers!

SailPeoria gifts

If you cruise with Sail Peoria

Sail Peoria sails out of EastPort Marina in East Peoria, Illinois. Brad can take up to four passengers on a cruise. The fee is per cruise, not per passenger. Check further details or book your cruise on the Sail Peoria website.


Spending the night in the Peoria area? We stayed at the Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino in East Peoria. Check rates.

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Sail Peoria


Disclosures:  The Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and Sail Peoria hosted our cruise. Our cruise was complimentary. However, any opinions expressed in this post are strictly mine.
This article contains an affiliate link. If you book a room through the “Check rates” link above, I will receive a small commission, at no additional cost to you.

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4 thoughts on “Sail Peoria: A Private Sailboat Cruise on Peoria Lake

    • October 9, 2017 at 10:58 am

      We had a great time, Kelly, and you’re right—it was great to see the area from the vantage point of the river.

  • October 12, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    I would love to take a sailboat ride sometime. The wind in the sail would be fun to experience. Love the cute gifts they give. 🙂

    • October 12, 2017 at 9:20 pm

      I would like to try it again when there is more wind, so I can get the full experience.


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