I've thought about this for 25 years now and am deciding to remove the bilge keels. Removal is simple, plugging the bolts is a decision for a permanent solution or for refitting a year later!
The history is Tiller Girl was built in 1963. A single design by the builder to satisfy the owner who wanted her like to look like above the waterline to be similar to a Laurent Giles 'Virtue' but shallow draught for the Thames Estuary and to dry out between tides off Thorpe Bay/Southend, on the south-east coast of England. To achieve safe drying out she has a long central keel with a straight bottomed iron ballast keel which will support her substantially. Her ballast keel is 18" wide! So she will balance dried out!
Originally she had timber bilge keels but at some time they were removed. You can see in the image that the original bilge keels were over 6 feet long and I believe they were removed because the drag was significantly hindering her sailing qualities:
In 1985 she certainly was not 'wearing' bilge keels but the then owner added steel bilge keels as you now see her. The same owner also moved the mast forward about a foot and added ballast inside (a surveyor had thought she was a little 'light'!). The mast was moved because the owner complained of excessive weather helm. Whether the bilge keels were added to assist reduction of the weather helm or whether fitting the bilge keels had added weather helm I cannot say. All I can say is that on purchasing her in 1991, I removed a lot of internal ballast weight because it was poorly fitted (intending for trial and error to put it back better fitted if necessary). I then took her sailing and weather helm was perfect. No ballast was replaced.
In 1995 I replaced the engine which halved the weight previously installed. Her trim was improved and her weather helm is delightful. Sufficient for safety, spot on for prolonged helming.
So the issue: On the wind she will create two bow waves, one for the bow, a second for the windward bilge keel. There is no shape of the bilge keel and the steel plates are ugly montrosities in need of fairing. On the wind in a seaway, the windward bilge keel traps air and water and compresses the mixture as the waves past by. Whoompt is the sound and the vibration of the bilge keel can be felt. Not much but after 25 years it is easy to recognise. Also in those 25 years I have had to sister frames immediately after the position of the bilge keels. Do I get resistance from leeway? I don't know. She is never going to be close winded but she has as much keel, if not more than an Essex smack. So I doubt leeway will increase. But am I right?
I can add some fitted ballast internally to replace the loss of weight from the bilge keels. I don't think the different weight distribution will make any change?
Note this image (sorry the end of season state!) but this shows clearer how long originally her timber bilge keels were.
Note the vulnerability of her splaying. Note how fair the hull will look with the bilge keels removed - and removing the batten showing the evidence of the 1980s. Oh incidentally, Tiller Girl were built by Seacraft of Leigh-on-Sea close by Southend who used to build Bawleys. Bawleys were sailing fishing vessels for trawling cockles and the transom and shape of Tiller Girl has obvious family similarities. The owner of Seacraft was the designer.
So, intending to remove the bilge keels, am I:
a. Very silly?
b. Very sensible?
c. Very curious that probably might be a good idea or might not?