The Admiral's Daughter
A fifth-generation member of a waterman's family
Text by Niambi Davis | photo by Caroline J. Phillips
Vera Meredith is the area’s only African American female first mate, and the daughter of the late Capt. Eldridge Meredith, commissioned in 2017 as the 101st Admiral of the Chesapeake Bay by Gov. Larry Hogan.
There’s no mistaking the Island Queen II when the boat pulls out of the dock at Grasonville’s Wells Cove. At 57 feet long, it’s the largest head boat on the Kent Narrows waters. Onboard are siblings Captains Tyrone Meredith and Vera Meredith. Vera Meredith is the area’s only African American female first mate, and the daughter of the late Capt. Eldridge Meredith, commissioned in 2017 as the 101st Admiral of the Chesapeake Bay by Gov. Larry Hogan.
Eldridge Meredith purchased the boat in Deltaville, Virginia, five years before his death in 2017, naming it the Island Queen II so that his charter boat fishing customers would associate the vessel with his previously owned charter boat of the same name.
As a fifth-generation member of a waterman’s family, Vera Meredith, along with her siblings, grew up in the close-knit community of Grasonville. After serving in the Navy, her father began to charter fishing parties. Vera’s mother, Margaret Meredith, worked in a local restaurant for 17 years before opening her own establishment. The Meredith children worked in their mother’s business when they were young. “I would help in the kitchen, but I always wanted to be on the water,” Vera recalls.
The Merediths have always lived by the ideals of family, community and service. “Everyone loved my mom and dad because they always gave back to the community,” Vera says. “If there was someone without enough money to pay for food, my mother would see to it that they ate.”
After moving away for a time, Vera returned to Queen Anne’s County to work with the Department of Social Services and as an educator with the Board of Education. At the same time, she was often working on the boat with her father. “I had to come back to the water,” she says. “I’d rather be there than anyplace else.”
Vera had been working on the boat for more than 20 years before becoming licensed by the Coast Guard as a 100 Ton Master. “All of us learned a lot from Dad — how to work on the bilge pumps, the engines, you name it,” she says. “I’m short, so I was always the one who had to get down in the hull to clean before inspection.” During that time, Eldridge Meredith urged his daughter to become licensed. “It was a challenge,” she recalls. “It took two years of study at 3B’s Captains School in Georgetown, Delaware.”
Vera says she enjoys taking out young people on fishing charters. Recently, the Island Queen II hosted the Anne Arundel County Police Youth Group. One of her most memorable trips included two African American World War II veterans — a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen and a veteran of the U.S. Army’s 761st Tank Battalion, an African American unit known as the “Black Panthers.” “I learned so much that day,” she says.
She recalls the earthquake of 2011 as her most frightening experience while on the boat. A huge wave came out of nowhere, accompanied by the sensation of something beating the underside of the boat. Her father knew it was an earthquake. “Pop, how did you know?” she asked. “Vera,” he replied, “When you get to be as old as I am, you know everything.”
From December to April, or when she’s not on the boat during the fishing season, Vera operates a catering and baking business. According to Vera, when she and, her brother, with whom she shares responsibilities for running the boat, are ready to turn over the steering wheel, her son Tyrell Jamerson will take over, preserving the family’s treasured legacy. Bryson Jones, her brother’s 7-year-old grandson, already loves the water and is being groomed to someday continue the family tradition.
Vera says she is not ready to give up the wheel just yet. Watching passengers of the Island Queen II disembark after a fishing trip, happy and with coolers full of fish, is the best reason to stay, she says.