A collaboration between Bob Berg of Flying Dutchman, the design genius of Bob Perry and a Taiwanese boatyard that built fishing boats brought about the Baba 30, a serious go-anywhere boat packed into a diminutive 30 feet on deck. Traditionally styled, she is a beautifully proportioned double-ender with a full keel that’s a heavy weather performer. With excellent construction and a high end interior, Baba 30s have aged well, demanding a relatively high resale value and have become a favorite among cruising couples.
The Baba 30 was introduced in 1976 as a response to the unprecedented success of the Westsail 32 which with the help of a Time Magazine lifestyle feature is generally credited for creating the cruising boat boom of the 1970s.
Bob Berg of Flying Dutchman International enlisted Bob Perry to design the boat and contracted construction to a little known boatyard in Tainan City, Taiwan called Shing Sheng who’s first first foray from fishing boats to sailboats was a sophisticated 27ft racer built for a Japanese customer. The Baba 30 became the second yacht to be produced by Shing Sheng. It’s said that Perry had to kick chickens out of the way when walking to the yard in those early years. It was a place where the workers rechristened Bob Berg with the nickname “Baba”, affectionately meaning father; it was catchy enough to stick for the boat as well. By 1979 Shing Shen moved from An-Ping Quay to purpose built facilities in An-Ping Industrial Estate and a new name, “Ta Shing” was adopted.
Production ended in 1985 and although hull numbers go up to #246, there was a gap in numbering between #125 and #201 resulting in a total production count of around 170 boats. During this time the Baba 30 was joined by two other Perry designed stablemates, the Baba 35.
The Baba 30 concept was later evolved by Bob Berg using designer Gary Grant into the Panda 34 and chose boatyard Hsin Hang to build the boat in Northern Taiwan. While Ta Shing themselves commissioned Perry to design the Tashiba 31, an all new boat, one that Perry himself considers one of his best full keel designs, but is often mistaken as a revised Baba 30.
As a side note, in 1983 the Shing Sheng name was revived by Paul Wang, a senior partner in Ta Shing. Paul went on to build a number of Gary Grant designs including the Norseman 40 in his custom built facility in An-Ping Industrial District.
There’s no questioning that this is a traditional full keel double-ender of Aitkens and Colin Archer heritage. The boat is nicely proportioned with beautifully balanced overhangs, a sweeping sheer, and the Perry favorite; a traditional canoe stern. A four foot bowsprit sits up front and from the mast hangs a cutter rig boasting a healthy 504 sq. ft. of sail.
John Kretschmer writing for Sailing Magazine commented, “it’s a big boat trapped in a short body” and certainly the displacement and ballast numbers are more akin to boats in the 35ft range. The cockpit is small, giving up most of the space to an expansive interior boasting 6′ 4″ of headroom. The layout down below has blue water in mind; there’s a seagoing berth and chart table combo on the starboard quarter and a large U-shaped seagoing galley to port. Two additional berths are provided in the saloon by way of settees either side of the saloon table. On some boats the table can fold away opening up the saloon, as per Perry’s original plans. The forward cabin came in two options, either a V-berth or a double berth which found favor in the East Coast. The quality of workmanship is superb and teak is abundantly used.
The Baba 30’s GRP hull follows the same layup schedule as the Valiant 32, with hull thicknesses running from just over a quarter of an inch near the topsides, to over a third of an inch near the bilges and grows to over half an inch in the tuck and keel. A single casting of iron is used as ballast which is encapsulated in GRP.
The hull to deck join is glued and through-bolted with a teak caprail sitting above the join. Early decks were cored with end-grain, kiln-dried, luan (philippine mahogany) affixed in 2 x 2 x 0.6 inch pieces, laid in filled polyester resin, later vessels utilized end-grain balsa on scrim with engineered kerfs (Baltec Contour core). Areas with through-deck fittings were locally cored in high quality marine plywood (made in Taiwan out of mahogany with waterproof glue, and boil-tested). All Baba 30 decks had a molded non-skid pattern, Thiokol-bedded teak decking was an option.
Bulkheads were of marine plywood that were staved with teak battens of 2 inches width, and much later, towards the end of production, models were available with teak veneered bulkheads as a means of reducing cost.
Early boats had wooden spars, of oregon and B.C. hemlock which do need regular care, but properly maintained will last the life of the yacht; owners tend to paint them (bad), and often do not understand that upkeep is required.
There has been an unconfirmed report of asbestos used in the galley. Tim Ellis who oversaw production of the Baba 30 from 1977 comments, “If woven asbestos was used, it was behind the stainless steel liner of the stove insert. Asbestos poses no threat in this situation and should not be disturbed. It is the handling and disposal of asbestos that requires care. To be honest, I don’t recall if we used it or not”
As a blue water cruiser, the Baba 30 will carry its crew in safety, and despite its small size, in relative comfort. The boat is well balanced and is relatively stiff. The best point of sail is on a reach with the first reef thrown in at a respectable 20 knots. In storm conditions the boat heaves-to beautifully and the boat is safe and dry.
Most owners report the boat under performs in light airs, to windward do not expect to make much headway in less than 6 knots of wind; 12-18 knots is her element. It’s worth noting Perry disagrees, commenting that the hull though pudgy, is easily driven, and under well trimmed sails can move very nicely in light airs.
As with many boats older than 25 years, have your surveyor check items such as chainplates, areas of balsa coring for rot and if applicable, the teak and the wooden mast. Overall, the Baba 30s have aged well, probably better than most boats of this era due to their excellent build quality.
Most Baba 30 owners have replaced the original mild steel 30 gallon fuel tank, which was susceptible to corrosion mounted in the bilge. The tank removes easily in half an afternoon and a new one fabricated from $600 to $1000 from a variety of materials. It’s worth noting the stainless steel water tanks and even the engine are easily removable in the Baba 30, sometimes a big job in other boats.
Resale value has remained high for a boat of its size, but when comparing with other boats in its price range, the 30 offers good value. The value of a Baba 30 will depend largely on the owner care received over the years, as of 2010 the asking price is in the range of $50k-95k USD.
» Baba Owners Group, Baba 30 info
» Baba, Panda, Tashiba sailboat Yahoo Group, information and owner discussions
» Sailing Magazine, Jul 2008, Boats and Gear, A bluewater beauty that was built to last” by John Kretschmer
» Practical Sailor Magazine, Nov 1998, p12-15, Used Boat Review: an in depth review of the Baba 30
» Good Old Boat Magazine, Mar 1999, Baba 30 feature
For their assistance in the writing of this article, thanks goes out to Tim Ellis who supervised the Baba line of yachts built at Shing Sheng / Ta Sheng during 1977-1987 as well as owners from the Baba Association, particularly Alan D. Sugarman. Permission to publish line drawings and notes kindly granted by Robert H. Perry.