Hundreds have attended a memorial service for Alan Culverwell, who was shot when pirates boarded his family's boat in Panama.

Culverwell, 60, died on May 2 while defending his wife and children from the men, who boarded the family yacht, the Aqua Lobo, while it was docked off Panama's northern coastline.

About 400 people attended his memorial service at the Marlborough Convention Centre.

"We really honoured Alan, we were able to celebrate him and send him off. It was not something that any of us wanted to be at. We were absolutely thrilled at the turnout. It was really impressive," his sister Derryn Hughes, told the Herald.


"It has been an ordeal. It has been a huge month."

Alan's wife, Derryn Culverwell, suffered machete blows in the attack. The couple's daughter, 11, was also hurt in the attack, while their son was on board but uninjured.

The family were doing okay, Hughes said. While Alan's body had returned to New Zealand there was no update on whether the Aqua Lobo would be brought back. A not-for-profit organisation has reportedly offered to bring the yacht back for free.

"Nothing is happening with that at this stage," Hughes said. "We are just giving Derryn some space to regroup. She's got the two children to focus on. It's just giving her time to think about what she wants to do."

Alan Culverwell and his family were attacked by pirates in Panama. Photo / Facebook
Alan Culverwell and his family were attacked by pirates in Panama. Photo / Facebook

Senior officials from the office of the Panama President travelled to New Zealand to pay their respects. Hughes said the family was thankful for the support received from authorities in Panama, as well as New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Mfat).

Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela apologised to the family on local television after the attack. Three men were later arrested and appeared in court on charges including aggravated homicide, robbery, criminal association and mistreatment of a minor.

The Culverwell family were on a dream trip, after selling their Marlborough Sounds property and leaving New Zealand shortly before Christmas in 2016. After buying a 65-foot launch they travelled to Florida to pick it up and were on the journey of a lifetime home to New Zealand.

Culverwell had awoken in the early hours after hearing a noise on the boat's roof. He was killed when he went to investigate. After managing to lock herself and her children in the cabin, Derryn Culverwell made an emergency call to close friends back in New Zealand.