2015 Boat Review: Salona 33

The solidly constructed Salona 33 is the baby of the Croatian builder's seven-boat product line and can be ordered to suit either a racer or coastal cruiser, a pair of roles it fills equally well.
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The solidly constructed Salona 33 is the baby of the Croatian builder's seven-boat product line and can be ordered to suit either a racer or coastal cruiser, a pair of roles it fills equally well.

Salona 33: A slick and speedy multipurpose sailer from Croatia

We have been spoiled by big boats. With their amenities, large sailplans and customizable features, it has been a big boat world for over a decade. So how refreshing was it to step aboard a 33-footer that offers choices and can change according to owner needs? The new Salona 33, the baby of a six-model lineup, can be ordered to suit a racer or weekend cruiser, and neither side will feel short-changed when the boat is taken out for a different purpose from time to time.


The Salona 33’s low profile shows an attractive boat with a plumb bow, no hard chines and a nearly straight, open transom. Despite her diminutive proportions in comparison to the 50-footer in the slip beside her, I noticed she looked serious, even a little mean—like she meant business.

The hull consists of hand-laminated, vacuum-bonded polyester with a PVC foam core above the waterline. The hull liner is reinforced with carbon fiber in high-stress areas, and the fore and aft bulkheads are watertight. An unusual feature—and one that is much touted by the Croatian builder—is the integral stainless-steel grid below the cabin sole and just above the keel, which ties together and spreads the loads of the keel, rig and hull. It certainly adds to the boat’s not-insignificant 11,000lb displacement, and there is always a concern about metal so near the bilge since even stainless isn’t corrosion free given the right (or wrong) circumstances. Nonetheless, the structure makes for a hull that is both exceptionally strong and stiff.

Below the waterline, the Salona 33 offers a T-shaped bulb keel with a draft of either 5ft 9in or 7ft 1in. For the racing-minded, the keel can even be optimized to IRC or ORC standards. There is a single, deep elliptical spade rudder that grips well and makes the boat very responsive.

The 9/10ths fractional rig supports double, aft-swept spreaders and a working sail area of 747ft² that is divided between an overlapping genoa and a traditional, fully battened main. Cruising sails from North or performance, laminated sails are available. The standard Seldén aluminium mast is keel-stepped. A carbon mast is also an option. The rigging is discontinuous wire with a split, cascading backstay. Four Harken winches, two primaries and two on the cabintop, manage the lines aboard.

On Deck

Unexpected touches aboard this 33-footer include a belowdecks Harken genoa furler and an optional recessed bowsprit. Carbon hatches are a nice touch too. Good, stainless steel handholds line the cabintop, and the decks are clear so it’s easy to move about quickly, even in racing mode. A tiller is standard, but twin wheels are an option, which makes the Salona one of the smallest boats with twin helms I’ve ever sailed.

The transom is open, but has the option for a full-beam athwartship seat that also provides a bit of safety for anyone moving about behind the wheels. The recessed traveler bisects the cockpit sole and provides end-boom sheeting. With the optional table removed, the cockpit is set up well for club racing. With it in place, sundowners can be served in comfort when the day’s racing is done.


The interior of the Salona 33 is surprising in both its size and amenities, primarily because she looks so sleek and low on deck. Amazingly, Salona has packed two cabins, one head and a compact galley into 33 feet.


The forward-facing nav desk is almost old school with today’s dependence on multifunction displays, but it will be appreciated by any skipper who longs for a space dedicated to navigation and other ship’s business. Below the desk is a storage locker for manuals and tools. There is plenty of room for navigation and communications equipment to be mounted outboard at eye level. B&G electronics can be specified as an option.

Two straight settees to port and starboard face one another over a drop-leaf table with built-in bottle stowage inside. The table also folds neatly out of the way when not in use. Aft to port is a workable L-shaped galley with a two-burner gimbaled stove/oven combination, a sink and a top-loading fridge. The forward stateroom offers plenty of stowage space, including a nice hanging locker fronted by a seat. The aft cabin is either spacious for one or meant for a cozy couple. On the plus side, there’s good ventilation with an overhead hatch.

The head is aft to starboard. Although it has no stand-up shower stall, it does include a useful combination wet locker and bin. The placement of the toilet paper holder, however, may result in a few lost rolls if you drag wet foulies over it and into the cubby.

The interior finish on our test boat was called bleached oak and offered a heavily textured beige color that may or may not appeal to the American market. A more traditional mahogany veneer finish is standard. Two hatches, opening ports in the cabin trunk, and six fixed ports in the hull provide light and ventilation. Other than water tankage, which is only 26 gallons, there is really no tradeoff below, and a couple with or without friends could spend a summer weekend aboard in both comfort and style.

Under Sail

With a one-foot wind chop and a breeze of 8-12 knots, we had ideal conditions for a performance-minded boat like the Salona. Under sail we tacked through 80 degrees and sliced cleanly through the waves.

At 45 degrees, we were able to push up to 5.8 knots of boatspeed in 9 knots of breeze. On a beam reach in 12 knots of wind, we were rewarded with 6.4 knots of boat speed. Every turn was effortless and the sheeting angles were tight due to the inboard placement of the genoa tracks. Sight lines forward from the wheels were excellent and the helm was instantly responsive. I could easily see myself taking her out for a quick afternoon sail alone, which is always a plus for anyone who doesn’t have much time to coordinate a crew.

Under Power

Auxiliary power is provided by a 21hp Yanamr diesel and saildrive leg below. The engine is tucked under the companionway steps, which are raised and lowered with the help of gas-assist shocks. A layer of insulation in the engine compartment keeps the sound of the small motor at quite comfortable decibels. A two-blade Gori folding propeller is standard. On flat water with little breeze, we motored back to the slip at 5.7 knots at 2,900 rpm. Tankage is sufficient with 24 gallons of fuel.


LOA 32ft 9in // LWL 29ft 8in // BEAM 10ft

DRAFT 5ft 9in (std); 7ft 1in (perf)


BALLAST 3,256lb

SAIL AREA 747ft2 (main and genoa)


ENGINE 21 hp Yanmar

DESIGNER J&J Yacht Design

BUILDER AD Boats, Split, Croatia

US DISTRIBUTOR Salona America, Coconut Grove, FL, 305-504-8714, salona-america.com






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