When British Waterways closed Oxford's Castle Mill boatyard in Jericho protesters warned it could be the beginning of the end for the city's boating community.

And they say their prediction is coming true after a mother-of-two watched in horror as her home - a 70ft canal boat - sank.

Claire Duncan said her boat was one of eight removed from the boatyard site by British Waterways last May when it was halfway through being repaired.

British Waterways has since sold the site to developers. Plans for the site went on show last week.

But the decision to close the boatyard sparked months of legal and planning battles.

Protesters also occupied the boatyard until they were evicted following court action.

Protesters said then its closure would leave Oxford boaters without adequate facilities to mend and service their boats.

Yesterday, one of the protesters, Bruce Heagerty, said: "This is exactly why Castle Mill Boatyard was so important to Oxford boaters - it brought the boating community together with local handymen who could help with the repairs such as welding, carpentry, engine work and plumbing.

"When British Waterways sold Castle Mill for real estate they were selling our community down the river.

"This is the third boat to sink on the Oxford Canal since the closing of the boatyard."

Ms Duncan said: "Luckily the children and I were able to get out of the boat before it san.

"But all of our possessions - clothes, toys, food, my phone - were all mixed up in a sodden mess, and a lot of other belongings just floated off."

She added: "My boat was halfway through being repaired properly last summer when British Waterways arrived at dawn and put our boats back into the water."

Her boat encountered problems on Monday when a fault near the propeller meant water started leaking into the boat.

She was travelling from North Oxford to have her boat craned out of the water at Gunpowder Wharf, Kidlington, when it began to sink. It was later recovered.

Mr Heagerty said: "Castle Mill was the hub of the community, where problems like Claire's were solved before they arose."

British Waterways spokesman Eugene Baston said: "There are more than adequate alternative boatyard facilities at Yarnton which have been there for a year so I'm at a loss to understand why this boat was not taken there for repairs."

Mr Heagarty said Yarnton did not have a permanent crane set up.